Q. James Likoudis had an article in The Wanderer which indicated that the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin was essentially accomplished by John Paul II in 1984. I think that you concurred with that belief in a previous column. My question is this: Did she not say that if the consecration was accomplished, there would be world peace? I don’t think that any sane person would state that we have had world peace at any time since 1984.
Therefore, the only two conclusions that seem possible are: 1) that the consecration did not take place or 2) that the Virgin is a liar.
We know that the Virgin cannot lie so it seems that conclusion one is most likely. Your thoughts? — W.C.M., via e-mail.
A. Our thought is that there is a conclusion three, namely, that the Blessed Virgin never promised that world peace would immediately follow the consecration of Russia. All she said was that world peace would come about at some time in the future. Here are her words on July 13, 1917: “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”
There is no indication of when that period of peace will come about.
But the consecration of Russia was not the only condition. Our Lady also mentioned the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays, saying that “if my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecution of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated.”
While many good people have for years taken part in the First Saturday devotion, and continue to do so today, we believe that many more will have to do so in order to bring about the period of peace promised by Our Lady of Fatima.
Q. As Lent approaches, we again hear that Jesus wasn’t nailed to the cross through the hands, but through the wrists. Although all things are possible with God, I think Mel Gibson had it correct in The Passion of the Christ, wherein Christ was nailed through the hands and was also tied to the cross around the wrists. Through 2,000 years, our crucifixes and paintings have depicted nailing through the hands, not to mention the numerous incidents of the stigmata, e.g., St. Francis of Assisi, Padre Pio, etc. What say you? — G.B., via e-mail.
A. The stigmata have a mystical significance and do not necessarily duplicate the physical location of the five wounds of Christ. This is true, for example, of the wound from the lance, which most authorities place on Jesus’ right side, but which some stigmatists have on the left side. In A Doctor at Calvary, his classic medical account of the Passion and death of Jesus, Dr. Pierre Barbet said:
“The exact localization of these stigmata is not always the same, but it varies throughout the whole extent of the metacarpal zone, as far as being very near to the wrists. We should come to the conclusion that the stigmatists can give us no information either as to the position or the form of the wounds of the Crucifixion” (p. 105).
As evidence of the spiritual significance of the wounds, Barbet cited the words of stigmatist Theresa Neumann, who told one of her friends: “Do not think that Our Savior was nailed in the hands, where I have my stigmata. These marks only have a mystical meaning. Jesus must have been fixed more firmly on the Cross.”
It was Barbet who discovered through experimentation on corpses that a nail placed in the palm of the hand would not support a man’s weight. He found, however, that there was a spot where the palm met the wrist that would take a nail and would support the body of a man. His most startling finding was that when a nail pierced this spot, it partly severed the median nerve, causing unbelievable pain but also causing the thumb to jerk inward against the palm.
This corresponded exactly to the bloodstain on the Shroud of Turin. Not only did the bloody wound appear on the back of the wrist in the pictures of the crucified Man on the Shroud, but the image of the hands, with the palms downward, showed no sign of thumbs.
Crucifixes and paintings done long before Barbet’s book came out in the 1950s did not have the benefit of his scientific research, but many crucifixes produced since that time now show the nails through Jesus’ wrists. By the way, it is not surprising to see ropes around the arms of those portraying Christ in the movies. What actor would agree to be fixed to the cross with nails through his hands and feet?
Q. A friend asked a priest if it was a sin to talk in church, and the priest said no. But isn’t it a sin of disrespect to the Real Presence of Jesus? Sometimes the church sounds like the lobby of a movie theater. — C.R., Pennsylvania.
A. Of course it’s disrespectful to talk loudly in church and to treat the church as if it were a shopping mall. What kind of sin it is depends on the awareness of the persons making all the noise. Many of them are probably oblivious to how disrespectful their behavior is, or perhaps they don’t even recognize the Real Presence of Jesus in the tabernacle. You don’t see many of them genuflect, that’s for sure.
It is long past time for priests to call people’s attention to the Person who makes the church a sacred place. We don’t recall reading in the Gospels about talking, laughing, and backslapping on Calvary.
Q. Can you give me a quick and easy explanation for why women cannot be ordained to the priesthood? — S.H., Massachusetts.
A. Basically, there are four reasons:
First, the priest at the altar stands in the person of Jesus, so just as you would not choose a man to play the role of the Blessed Mother, you would not choose a woman to play the role of Christ. Second, Jesus is often referred to as the Bridegroom and the Church as His Bride. So it would not be appropriate to have a woman as the bridegroom. Third, Jesus did not choose women to be priests though He had many well-qualified women whom He could have chosen, including His own Mother. Fourth, for a sacrament to be valid, there must be the proper matter. One cannot use Pepsi instead of water for Baptism, or beer instead of wine for the Eucharist. So, too, the proper matter for the Sacrament of Holy Orders is a baptized male.
This does not mean that women are inferior to men, anymore than beer is inferior to wine; it simply means that men and women, who are of equal dignity, have different roles in the Church.
Q. More and more cremations are taking place in our Church today. The family makes the arrangements with the funeral director before talking to the priest. Sometimes the ashes are placed in urns or left on china cabinets. Even necklaces and bracelets are made that contain the ashes of the deceased. What is the Church’s teaching on cremation? — M.W., Illinois.
A. The Church allows cremations as long as they are not chosen for reasons contrary to Catholic teaching (cf. canon 1176.3). Such reasons would include hatred of the Catholic Church or denial of the doctrine of the resurrection of the body. Since 1996, it has been permitted to celebrate a funeral Mass with only the cremated remains present. Prior to then, the body of the deceased had to be present for the Mass, and the cremation would follow. Many people are choosing this option today because it is considerably less expensive than a traditional funeral.
In the Church’s Order of Christian Funerals, it says that cremated remains “should be treated with the same respect given to the human body from which they come. The cremated remains should be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium (a shallow, sealed, recessed niche for ashes). The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased is not the reverent disposition that the Church requires.”
So leaving the ashes on one’s china cabinet or mantelpiece is prohibited. It is also prohibited, not to mention bizarre, to place the ashes inside a necklace or bracelet. Think of all the good one could do for the deceased by substituting for these practices the celebration of memorial Masses for the departed family member.